If you are familiar with the underground genre known as “autographical comics” and its lauded authors viz. Robert Crumb, Harvey Pekar, Art Spiegelman, Joe Matt, Chester Brown et al, then simply put, Troy Chin’s Resident Tourist is the Singaporean version.
Considering that Troy’s series is now almost a decade old and in its 9th edition, the Resident Tourist‘s continuing existence is an impressive achievement especially if you understand the peculiar context of Singaporeans pursuing art in Singapore itself.
But that’s not the point is it? Autographical comics tend to be depressive art – confessional, reflective, scatological and cathartic for both author and reader.
Considering Singaporeans’ penchant for being pragmatic, the fact that the Resident Tourist is a decade old surely is an aberration of sorts but that in itself can be said about any Singapore made art.
But back to Troy – Part 9 is a particularly difficult instalment to read as it recounts a very difficult time for our protagonist as he suffers the trauma of the demise of his grandmother and the rehabilitating effects of a viral infection.
Simply put, together with other events, these traumas put Troy into existential crisis – well, it is mid-life for Troy and while those around him seem to move on (‘progress’), he appears to be ‘regressing’.
His working life seems to be on the up as he receives several commissions that put him in a somewhat healthier financial condition but his inner life is something else entirely.
Once again, the Resident Tourist is a mirror forcibly put to the reader’s own existence – despite Troy’s unconventional life choices – a thought-provoking treatise of what might be possible if we shear ourselves of all the material trappings that the ‘Singapore Dream’ affords.
The ending might be particularly sad if one believed in the false reality of perfect relationships and the Singaporean concept of ‘success’ but we perceived the resolution as a life-affirming epiphany – a keen sense of self-awareness that will lead to fulfilment and achievement on its own terms.
… still there’s more …